Walking Through a French Village in the Sky

Driving along I didn’t notice anything unusual. The French farmland continued to flow, interrupted only sporadically by a farmhouse, gas station or tractor. I was in rural France, there was no doubt about it but I didn’t expect there to be moments of travel magic, not until I looked up and saw looming high above me a city on a hill, the ancient fortified town of Cordes-sur-Ciel, not far from Albi.

Originally built in the 1220s as a way to consolidate people caught up in the anti-Cathar crusades, the city has managed to survive fairly intact over the centuries, providing a rare look into daily life in the Dark Ages. I love history and for some reason the Cathar movement, and resulting backlash, has always interested me. The Cathars were a Christian sect whose members preached a return to a simpler form of the religion. Of course any movement that advocated taking power away from the Pope was seen as a threat, and so a Crusade was launched against them. Fighting waged throughout Southwestern France in the 13th century, but centered on the town of Albi, which is only 16 miles away from Cordes. But it’s not the Cathar history lessons that attract people to this town today, it’s to live the ethereal experience of walking through a town quite literally above the clouds.

Since it is a medieval town, Cordes isn’t large and today only around 1,000 people call it home. The greatest pleasure of being there isn’t found at a restaurant or museum, it’s just by exploring the ancient town on foot. The steep, cobbly streets and the homes drenched in ivy all look like scenes from a movie instead of a real town. The best part of the experience though are the views unto the valley below; farms and pastures radiant in concentric circles as far as the eye can see.

This is the France I didn’t know, the one as far away emotionally from Paris as one can get. This is also the France that everyone should see, at least once in their life. To bask in the southern sun and absorb the heady scents of lemon, lavender and thyme is not the same as walking through the capital city, oddly and inconceivably enough, I think it might be better.

cordes sur ciel

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

8 thoughts on “Walking Through a French Village in the Sky”

  1. Lovely photos. The countryside is gorgeous. In a way, I think of Paris as being its own thing with its own culture, separate from the rest of France. Not that that’s a bad thing necessarily, but I really like coming across small towns like this too. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Dallas, absolutely. Two VERY distinct cultures, actually more than two. Each region has a very pronounced culture and personality.

  2. Mariella Arias

    Gorgeous pictures!! This places looks lovely. It makes me wish I would’ve found your blog before planning my trip in France. I definitely feel the need to visit this country again. There is just way too much too see.

  3. Hi Matt,

    I’m travelling to France for about 2 weeks in October with my wife. We’ll be in Paris for at least a week. After that, where do you suggest we visit to experience the country lifestyle/beauty of France?


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